FAQs

What should I order, and why?

5-SET CONSTRUCTION or BID PACKAGE

If you are building in an area that requires very few copies to construct a house, or you just want to get a quote from one or more builders, this is the package for you. These sets of plans cannot be duplicated, but they come with a formal Copyright License that gives you the legal right to construct the house, and to modify (redline) the plans beforehand to suit your needs. If you need more than 5 sets, you can add them to your initial order, or order them (by phone) at a later date.

PLANS PRINTED ON MYLAR

If you – like nearly all of our customers – plan to modify our plans to suit your needs, you might want to consider purchasing a Mylar copy. Mylar was created for this purpose – it is erasable, and can be drawn upon – so the changes can be made just once on this “master” copy, instead of having to mark-up (red-line) each bond copy of the plans. After the changes have been made, you or your builder can then print as many copies as you need, whenever you need them. That way everyone will have the final version of the plans to work with.

PLANS IN PDF FORMAT (Highly Recommended)

The vast majority of our customers now purchase plans in PDF format. The biggest reason why they’re so popular is because they can be passed along instantaneously by email. You can open them right away on your own computer, and you can then zip them to your builder (or builders, for bids), your lender, and anyone needing to approve the plans before construction. Then your builder can zip them to all their sub-contractors, truss manufacturers, and (if needed) to an engineer. And if you’d still like to make modifications on Mylar sheets, your Copyright Release allows you to print on anything you’d like.

PLANS IN CAD FORMAT

If the modifications you wish to make are extensive, or are primarily structural in nature – changing the exterior wall system, altering the outline of the house, etc. – – you might be better off ordering a CAD version of the plans, if one is available. Changes can be made much more quickly, possibly saving you considerably more than the added cost of the CAD copy.

Top of Page

Can I upgrade later without paying a penalty?

Absolutely! Just give us a call on our toll-free number (1-888-388-5735), between 10am and 6pm Pacific Time, and we can process your order in about 5 minutes.

Every time you upgrade from one package to another, you only have to pay the difference between the price of the new version and the amount you have already spent. This is true whether you upgrade just once, or more than once.

Top of Page

What’s the difference between your plans and “stock” plans?

A typical “stock” plan is created by a designer in his office, with no client or piece of property to design for. Stock is another word for inventory, and that’s what they’re creating. A single design may be tweaked dozens of times, with each being given a different “name”.

Our plans, however, are the product of countless hours of conversation, interpretation, design and drawing. A family with specific real-life needs works with the architect, who then translates those needs into a beautiful and functional home design. The design is created from scratch to fulfill that family’s requirements as well as their dreams. The plans include quite a bit more information for the builder, but much more important is the amount time devoted to the design of a house that looks great inside and out, “feels” right no matter what part of the house you’re in, and functions in a way that matches how people actually live in their homes.

For a much more detailed description of the many differences between our plans and “stock” plans, please click here

Top of Page

Are your homes more expensive to build than ones built from stock plans?

No! In fact, the exact opposite is often true. Our unique client-inspired homes are not only more attractive, functional, and comfortable than homes built from “stock” plans; they are also often less costly to build! There are two reasons for this: space efficient design; and the level of detail in the plans.

The former leads to a home that fits a family’s needs and desires, but with no wasted space. Think about this for a moment – If you handed a “stock” plan that took a matter of hours to create to any good architect, he or she could easily design a much better house with a very similar floor plan with 10% less square footage without any sacrifice in actual living space, comfort or functionality. This translates into a 10% reduction in overall construction costs!

And the latter reduces the time the builder must spend figuring out how to accomplish what the plans call for. The more information you provide a builder, the faster and more efficient he’ll be.

Our homes may look expensive, but they’re not!

Top of Page

Why are space, energy and material efficiencies so important?

When architects design a new home, space efficiency is always a critical issue. This is because they’re hired by a client to design a house that fulfills all of their needs, and as many of their wishes and desires as possible, while staying within their budget. And the best way to do that is to waste no space. The best illustration of wasted space is the “bonus room” in many stock plans (unless it’s above the garage). The first time we saw one, we renamed it the “bogus room”!

Space can also be wasted by separating rooms unnecessarily, or designing unneeded hallways. With architectural plans, no space is wasted. In fact, they’re often able to use their creativity to add space, particularly for storage.

Architects focus on energy and material efficiencies as well – the former saves lots of money over time, and the later saves money by limiting waste.

Top of Page

How much does it typically cost to build a house from your plans?

There are so many variables in home building that it is impossible for us (or any other plan provider that’s being honest, for that matter) to answer this question with any degree of accuracy. Labor and material costs vary greatly from state to state and from community to community; site accessibility, soil conditions and distance from your builder can have an impact as well; local building codes and conditions may affect construction costs; and your choices in lighting, finishes, details, and materials in general will have a significant impact as well. A house that can be built for under $100/sf in one location might cost more than $200/sf in another.

A Helpful Hint: Send your builder or competing builders to our website! They’ll see floor plans, exterior elevations, interior and exterior dimensions, and (when available) photos. It’s one thing to ask a builder about a house, and quite another to ask him or her about this house.

Please Note: Stock plan sites often display or offer average cost to build estimates, but we believe this does potential harm to plan shoppers The figures you might have seen are national averages compiled each year by the US Department of Housing, with the entire country broken up into just four areas. These figures are then simply multiplied by the square footage of the house you’re considering. The chance that these general figures will match the actual cost to build your specific house, on your specific plot of land, in your specific area of the country is about equal to winning the lottery!

So the estimates are always going to be either higher or lower than the actual cost to build. In the case of the former, you might pass on a house you love that you could actually afford to build; and in the case of the latter, you may not be able to build from the plans you’ve purchased without expanding your budget or cutting back somewhere.

Top of Page

Can your plans be modified, and if so, by whom?

Our customers always modify our plans in some way to suit their specific needs. In the vast majority cases, these changes are made by their builders, or by a local design professional. However, some of our customers choose to work with the architect or designer who created the plans, if he or she is available to do so.

To work with the original architect or designer, you’ll need to purchase the plans in PDF format first, as this option comes with a Copyright Release allowing you to make copies of the plans after they’re modified. We will then put you in direct contact with each other, and you can work together without further involvement on our part. However, if you later decide not to work with the original architect, you can still work with anyone else of your choosing.

Top of Page

What’s included when determining total living area?

All “conditioned” (meaning heated and cooled) living space, excluding the basement and any developed space above the garage, is included in the calculation of total living area. And when calculated, measurements are always made to the outside of the house. Porches, decks and garages are not included either. In a two-story house, the stairwell opening is typically measured only once, and is not included in the total for the upper floor. Basement square footage should be listed separately.

Top of Page

Are there photos we can see that are not displayed on the website?

Unfortunately, the answer is no. We ask everyone we work with to send us any and all photos they have of their homes, so if there are no photos for a particular house, or none of the interior, it’s because we have none to show you. It was in response to this problem that we added the four elevations drawings to the website, so that customers could at least see all four sides of the house. Please understand that when the architect designed this one-of-a-kind house, he or she had no idea that copies of the plan would ever be sold to someone else, so they didn’t always make an effort to get photos or other marketing materials.

A Helpful Hint: To help you visualize the interior spaces, first print out both the floor plans and the elevations (these are important because they show window sizes and height, and the rooflines); then look under Attributes to see the ceiling heights and which rooms have vaulted ceilings. You can then refer to all this information as you read the full description of the house, which is typically written as though you were taking a walking tour.

Our goal is to give our customers as much information as possible, so we feel badly that we can’t be of more help. We know it’s difficult to visualize the exterior and interior of a house from elevations and floor plans. Keep in mind, though, that each person who purchases our plans ultimately determines which materials and finishes they want, inside and out, regardless of what substances and colors were used in the construction of the original house. So the house will ultimately look the way you want it to look.

Top of Page

Can foundations – basements, crawlspaces, slabs, etc. – be changed?

Absolutely… In fact, it’s done all the time. Whatever foundation the original plans call for, they can nearly always be changed. If you think about it, the biggest difference between a crawlspace and a basement is the depth of the excavation and the height of the ceiling. The outside walls are the same, as are any interior supporting walls or other elements, so changing to one from the other is fairly simple. If the change is from a crawlspace to a basement, you’ll need to find a place to add stairs from the main level (unless it’s a two-story home where you can use the existing stairwell), and determine the lower level floor plan you’d like. The opposite is true if you’re changing from a basement to a crawlspace, in which case you would simply remove the stairs to the lower level.

It’s even simpler to change from either a basement or a crawlspace to a slab foundation. Your builder will use the existing foundation drawings to determine the size and shape, and local codes and conditions to determine the thickness.

You can also change from a slab foundation to a basement or crawlspace, but this is a bit more complex and costly. Again, just like changing from a crawlspace to a basement, you’ll need to add stairs from the main level, and determine the floor plan you’d like. But someone – ideally a local structural engineer – will have to create new foundation drawings, using the original drawings for reference.
All of these changes are quite common, as are changes to mixed foundations – part crawlspace and part slab, part slab and part basement, etc.

Top of Page

Can your plans be reversed?

Yes they can. It is not at all uncommon that the views or site characteristics make it either advantageous or necessary to build a house in the reverse of the way the plans were originally drawn. When reversed, if you are facing the house, rooms that were on the right side of the house will now be on the left, and vice versa.

If a right-reading reverse version of the plans is offered, this is definitely the version you should purchase, whether you’re interested in bond copies, Mylar or electronic files. They are a bit more expensive than mirror-reverse plans (see below), but definitely worth it.

If this option is not available for the home you select, we can simply print some of your plans in what is referred to as mirror-reverse — the words and numbers will appear as they would if you held the plans up to a mirror. This will not present a problem for your builders, as they are quite familiar with this process. It is best that you call in your order so we can help you decide how many copies you need reversed.

Please Note: Mirror-reverse copies should only be ordered if you are purchasing plans printed on bond paper. If you want the Mylar or PDF version, it is best to purchase the original (not reversed) version and have copies made locally in mirror-reverse.

Top of Page

Is it true that a builder can build one of your homes without the plans?

Not only is it not true – it’s also illegal, and highly unethical. Copyright infringement is a Federal crime, and the penalty for breaking this law is a $250,000 fine plus attorney fees for each occurrence! If you build a house based on an original copyrighted design – even if the design is modified – without purchasing a copyright release from the designer or his or her agent (us), you’ve broken the law.

In addition to being illegal, it’s also lame! First, while they may be able to build a house that looks like the house on our site, they can’t possibly build the same house from the information provided on our site. All of the unique details, and the overall “feel” of the house, will be lost. Your enjoyment of the house will be greatly diminished, as will its value should you decide to sell it someday.

And second, you probably won’t save a dime! No one can build a house without drawings. No one. If you or they hire a designer to create the new drawings, you will have spent considerably more than we would have charged you for the complete set of existing plans (our prices are typically 5 to 10% of the amount paid by the original homeowner); and even if you or they just hire a local draughtsman, you’ll end up paying almost as much as the cost of our plans, and then an engineer would have to be brought in to make sure the house was structurally sound.

This is a lose/lose/lose proposition: An inferior and less valuable home; no savings whatsoever; and exposure to a $250,000 fine. By acting morally, ethically and intelligently – and avoiding anyone who does not – you’ll be rewarded with a great house for you and your family to enjoy for as long as you live in it.

Top of Page

Do your plans come with a materials list?

Full architectural working drawings — no matter how complete or detailed — never include a materials list. This list is always compiled by the construction materials supplier your builder works with, and it is tailored to availability, suitability, and cost. Generic materials lists, which are often available with “stock” plans, are of limited use in getting an estimate, and of no use whatsoever for getting actual bids or for construction.

Top of Page

Do your plans include electrical, plumbing and/or mechanical drawings?

While nearly all of our plans include electrical schematic drawings for each floor – – showing the locations and types of the switches, outlets, and fixtures that the original client asked for — they never include an actual electrical wiring diagram, or the specific location of the electrical panel. Codes vary from state to state, and the location of the source of electricity varies as well. The electrical contractor is required to create the wiring diagram, based on the local codes and the best location of the panel, and this is always included at no extra charge in his quote.

This is also true of plumbing plans, except that there are no schematic drawings, as the locations of the different appliances and fixtures are shown on the detailed floor plans. Just like the electrical contractor, the plumbing contractor is required to create the plumbing plans, based on the local codes and the location of the water source, and this is always included in his quote as well.

Mechanical plans are rarely included, for the same reasons shown above, along with the fact that the climate is different is each location where the home might be built. Keep in mind also that the duct work, venting and other details will vary depending on the type of heating and cooling system (hot water, forced air, electric, radiant floor, etc.) you select; the type of energy (oil, gas, electricity, solar) that you choose to use; and how you’d like the house to be zoned.

Top of Page

Should I only consider homes that were designed for a lot like mine?

Absolutely… not! This would severely limit your search for no good reason.
Here are some examples: If you wish to build a house with a walk-out or daylight basement, and your land slopes to the rear while the original house was built on land that sloped to the front (or to the left rather than to the right), your builder will simply move the doors and windows to the opposite side of the house, and possibly make some small changes to the basement layout.

If the original house was built on a sloping lot, it was supported in some way on the sloping side, often by a walk-out or daylight basement. If your property is flat, you could build the house without the lower level, or it could be a basement without windows or doors. And in the reverse situation, you might add a basement or crawlspace, or some other form of supporting structure.

All homes built from previously-drawn plans need to be “married” to the land, just as they need to be oriented on it. Except in fairly rare cases, these changes should not be difficult for your builder to make.

Top of Page

What’s your policy for folks building in other countries?

We’ve sold plans to people all over the world. Most of them needed plans to suit not only a different system of measurement, but also different building materials and codes. There are two ways to deal with this issue. If the plans are available in CAD format — which you will know by looking at the Pricing Options for the plans — then a local draughtsman, designer or architect should have the ability to simply convert the measurements to metric. This will also make it quite easy to modify the plans to suit your needs and your property. These CAD (.dwg) files would be emailed to you instead of shipped, and we would include the files in PDF format to allow you to view them on a computer, or have them printed at full size prior to modification.

Your second option (or only option if the plans are not available in CAD format), is to just pay the cost of a 5-set construction package (our least expensive package), and then we would email the plans to you in PDF format. In this case, you’d need to employ a local draftsman, designer, engineer or architect to redraw (electronically or by hand) a new set of working drawings by copying the original. These plans would then conform to your system of measurement, your available building materials, and your local codes and conditions. This is not as crazy as it may sound, because the cost to redraw existing plans would be a tiny fraction of the cost of an original design. And any modifications you’d like to make can be incorporated into the new set of plans.

Our website cannot process orders from outside the US, so you’d have to call us to place your order. The number is 415-331-3383, and we’re normally available from 10AM to 6PM Pacific (West Coast) Time. Please email first and wait for a reply before calling so we don’t miss your call.

Top of Page

How long does it take for my order to arrive?

If you order printed plans, we are usually able to process orders and ship plans the day after we receive them, and sometimes on that same day if we receive your order in the morning (Pacific Time). Our standard shipping is by Post Office Priority Mail, which usually takes just two (business) days to arrive. We also offer two-day and overnight shipping by Fed-Ex. If you order plans in electronic format (PDF or CAD), the files will be emailed as soon as your order is processed.

Top of Page

What is your refund/exchange policy?

We do not make refunds after plans are shipped or emailed. We do offer a one- time exchange, under the following terms and conditions: The exchange must be made within 30 days of your purchase; the new plans must be from the same architect or designer; and if we shipped printed plans to you, they must be sent back before the new plans are shipped out.

If you select a plan that is less expensive than your original selection, there will be no refund of the difference. If you select a plan that’s more expensive, you will need to pay the difference.

Top of Page

Is my credit card information secure?

The online industry standard for encryption is called a SSL (Secure Socket Layer) Certificate. We have one on our secure servers, which then transfer your encrypted information to an online banking company whose servers are protected both electronically and physically. We’ve used this system for more than a decade without a hint of a problem.

We highly recommend visiting another section of our site titled Important Info (you’ll find a link on every page of our website), where other essential questions are answered.

Top of Page

Bedrooms

We highly recommend that you click on two boxes – the number of bedrooms you know you need, and one less bedroom. For example, if you need 4 bedrooms, click on the boxes next to 4 and next to 3. Otherwise you will not see homes where existing rooms on the lower, main, or upper levels might work perfectly well as a bedroom instead of as an office, study, etc.

×